Educator Voices: Alejandra Cardenas

Based on our many years of running programs, and countless conversations with girls, parents, caregivers, and educators, we know that our work is impactful. Yet we’re always so deeply moved to hear how our programs and tools help people make positive change in their lives. We recently had an opportunity to chat with Alejandra Cardenas, a Prevention Specialist at Alum Rock Counseling Center and participant in our professional development training (formerly known as Power ColLABorative). Registration for our three-day professional development training in Oakland on March 4-6 is open; please join us!


Tell us a little about the work you do at Alum Rock Counseling Center.

I am a prevention specialist. Alum Rock Counseling Center’s mission is to provide support for families and inspire at-risk youth to reach their full potential. The center offers many services, and I work primarily with elementary and middle school students, working on social skills, enrichment games, and activities, including ones that encourage spending time with family. We have served families online through the pandemic and have started to return to in-person services more recently.


What drew you to sign up for the Power ColLABorative professional development training?

I always look for professional development training that will help me improve, both in the work that I do and also personally. The type of work we do involves taking care of others — youth and families — so it is easy to lose sight of focusing on ourselves too. That’s why Girls Leadership’s wellness approach and tools to support wellness were interesting to me. I participated in the online training and Girls Leadership made the space so safe and welcoming!


How has the Power ColLABorative training served the work you do as a Prevention Specialist for Alum Rock Counseling Center?

There are a lot of tools that are useful. I still have the slides and go back and look at them! But the part that really stuck with me was the importance of sharing experience with others. I was able to hear about people’s experiences and relate to what they were going through. Being able to relate to the people I work with and learn about them is important. I have been able to apply the communication skills I learned at Girls Leadership to both my work and personal lives.


Do you feel like what you learned at Girls Leadership changes how you work with girls vs. boys?

The things I learned through the Power ColLABorative training can be applied to all youth, but I did appreciate seeing the impact of Girls Leadership’s work on girls. At the beginning of the training, they shared a video where a group of girls from their program shared a song that they wrote. That video — seeing what girls are capable of and how they speak up and put themselves out there — was very powerful.


Why are Girls Leadership’s programs particularly important now?

For me, social and emotional learning (SEL) is something that we try to incorporate into a lot of our sessions. And girls do need to practice and work on building and developing those skills. Through the training I participated in, I gained a greater understanding of how important it is to teach and incorporate SEL, and also how important it is to learn it myself and apply the learnings to my personal and professional life. I have been able to improve on skills I have and also incorporate new skills.


What is one of your favorite Girls Leadership tools to use with young people?

Through the training, we talked about mindfulness, the importance of being self-aware, and being able to express ourselves. The tools around mindfulness, self-awareness, and self-expression are ones that I really like and try to incorporate in all of my sessions. The young people I work with have responded really well to a mindfulness exercise I do before sessions. It helps them a lot and many have liked it so much they use it in their own lives — for example, in the morning before they start their day.


Girl & Grown-up Workshops Professional Development Training

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